The UK’s Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) has just released a report into a freak accident on board a Virgin Atlantic Flight from New Dehli to London Heathrow which resulted in a passenger breaking his ankle in two places when unexpected turbulence hit. The man was forced to spend more than a week in hospital after undergoing emergency surgery to repair the injury.
Virgin Atlantic flight VS301 from Dehli to London had been in the air for around five and a half hours on 21st August 2019 when severe turbulence suddenly struck as it was passing over northern Turkey. According to accident investigators, the commander of the Airbus A340-600 had seen a “non-threatening” cloud shortly before the turbulence hit.
As soon as the turbulence struck, the senior member of cabin crew made an announcement to reassure passengers and instructed both passengers and crew to take their seats and fasten their seatbelts.
Unfortunately, that announcement came too late for one passenger who had seen stood around near the rear galley waiting for a lavatory to become available. The couldn’t even remember exactly what happened but told investigators he suddenly found himself laying on the floor.
The passenger spent the rest of the flight in extreme pain with his right ankle swollen up. The pilots requested a priority landing at Heathrow and paramedics met the plane on arrival – once at the hospital he was found to have broken his ankle in two places and underwent surgery the following day.
A member of cabin crew also received a minor shoulder injury in the incident when he was thrown against a bulkhead, although he didn’t require any treatment.
With no bad weather forecast, the seat belt signs had been off at the time which just goes to prove that you should always keep your seatbelt fastened and avoid standing up unnecessarily
Accident investigators said that pilots face a difficult balance in deciding whether to turn seatbelts signs on or leave them off. If pilots put them on every time there was a mere possibility of turbulence then they’d be switched on for extended periods in calm conditions – “which can be frustrating for passengers,” the report noted.
In this case, the seatbelt signs weren’t switched on because no bad weather was forecast – which just goes to prove that you should always keep your seatbelt fastened and avoid standing up unnecessarily
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